Be Our Guest!

The Gourmet Girls met on Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at Andrea's home for "Be Our Guest" night.  Unfortunately, Jodi, Raquel and Lynley were unable to make it, so there were eight of us: Andrea & her husband James, Lara & her husband Loic (and Baby Henri of course), LS & her friend Jeff, and me (Bridget) and my husband Rob.  We had a great evening and the food was delicious as always!  Lara brought the excellent Stuffed Mushroom appetizer, LS made a Mexican Caesar Salad, I did the Breadsticks (Our Best Bites), Andrea & James did the main Filet Mignon with Blender Bernaise and two sides; Brussel Sprouts and Mashed Potatoes with Horseradish CreamI made the dessert: Dolce de Leche Banana Toffee Pie (Our Best Bites). Unfortunately we didn't get a picture of the steaks!  Tip on the sauce: don't leave it on the stove too long or the eggs will cook!  The taste was super flavorful but the texture a little thick from cooking a bit long.  Thanks for the great evening and the THREE dishes Andrea!

 Stuffed Mushrooms
This recipe is so easy Lara texted it to me!
1 pound sausage 
1 8 oz cream cheese, softened
Big mushrooms (Costco always has them)

Clean mushrooms and twist out stems.  Cook sausage & drain.  Add cream cheese to sausage & mix.  Fill mushrooms & bake at 350 for 15 minutes.  Serve immediately.

Mexican Caesar Salad
(LS added tomatoes and jicama for color & texture)

(Our Best Bites page 30)

1 1/2 cups warm (105-115 degree) water
1 TBS sugar
1 TBS active dry or bread machine yeast
1/2 tsp salt
3-4 cups flour, divided

1. In a large bowl (the bowl of your mixer, if you have one), combine water, sugar and yeast.  Let stand for 10 minutes for until yeast is bubbly.
2. Add salt and stir.  Add 1 1/2 cups flour and mix well.  Gradually add more flour (usually between 1 1/2 - 2 1/2 cups, depending on your elevation and your humidity until dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl and it barely sticks to your finger.
3. Spray a glass or metal bowl with cooking spray and place dough in the bowl.  Cover and let rise for 45 minutes or until doubled in bulk.
4. Remove from the bowl and place on a lightly floured surface.  Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.  Roll dough into a rectangle 18 inches long and 9 inches wide and cut into 12 strips with a pizza cutter.
5. Roll out a piece of dough into a snake and then drape it over your forefinger and twist the dough.  Place on baking sheet and repeat with remaining 11 pieces of dough.  Try to space them evenly, but it's okay it they're close; pulling apart hot bread is one of life's greatest pleasures!
6. Cover the pan with a clean cloth and allow the dough to rise for another 30 minutes.  When there's about 15 minutes to go, preheat your oven to 425 degrees.  When the dough is done rising, bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.  Rub some butter on top of the breadsticks (just put a zip-top bag on your hand, grab some softened butter, and rub it on the warm breadsticks) and sprinkle with Garlic Bread Seasoning (see below) or the powdery Parmesan cheese in a can and garlic salt.  For a sweet treat, you can sprinkle the breadsticks with cinnamon sugar.

Garlic Bread Seasoning
1/2 cup powdered Parmesan cheese
2 tsp Kosher salt
2 TBS garlic powder
2 tsp oregano
2 tsp basil
2 tsp majoram
2 tsp parsley

NOTE: I was inspired to make these after having them at two family dinners, made once by each of my sisters-in-law.  They didn't follow the recipe either.  I listed the above recipe as it reads in the book, however I made some changes.  After the breadsticks had risen on the pans, I brushed them with melted butter (I used 1 cube for a doubled dough recipe) and sprinkled with my version of the Garlic Bread Seasoning (I just used salt, garlic powder, oregano and basil) and then generously sprinkled fresh shredded Parmesan cheese (none of this canned stuff!)

This link is sort of the recipe Andrea used.  She used butter instead of olive oil and left out the simmering water method. This was more her version:
Cut ends off Brussel sprouts
Slice in half
Heat up skillet on med-high heat. 
Add butter and melt
Add Brussel sprouts and cook until bottoms carmelize 
Squeeze lemon over to desired taste and serve immediately

Enjoying dessert on the patio
Jeff & LS, James & Andrea, Rob & Bridget, Lara, Loic & Baby Henri
Guest Star Ryan in the background

CIA Review

The Gourmet Girls met on Tuesday, April 17, 2012 at Lynley's home. Not only were all seven of us present but we even had two fabulous guests!  Jodi's sister, Natalie Fredrick joined us along with all of the fun jewelry she makes and Grace Rock, co-author of Favorites and Keeping Up Cookbook ate with us as well. The plan for the menu that night was to make something from the Culinary Institute of America - either something you made while at the school, or something someone else made, or something from our recipe "binder" that we didn't get a chance to make. 

My appetizer was Crispy Scallion Pancakes with Dipping Sauce.  I made these on Day 5 at the CIA on our "World Street Foods" day. I have to say they did not go quite as smoothly in my kitchen as they did in Texas with Michael holding my hand, but I think they turned out fairly well.  Andrea tried a salad recipe from the CIA Binder which no one ended up making while we were in Texas, but was quite tasty.  It was called Romaine Lettuce with Japanese Salad Dressing, from Day 4 when we made Asian cuisine.  Raquel's "bread" was the Naan from Day 4. Lynley's main was Shepherd's Pie, which we didn't make while at the CIA, but was listed on Day 2 as a dish from the British Isles.  It was delicious!  LS tried the Grilled Flank Steak with Chimichurri Sauce from our South American day.  Jodi did our other side - Grilled Vegetables with Romesco Sauce which she made on Day 1, cooking in Europe. Andrea also did Sticky Rice with Coconut Sauce and Fresh Mangos from Day 4, however she did omit the MUNG BEANS!  Lara was the only one who was permitted to vary from the CIA theme, since she unfortunately wasn't able to be with us in Texas.  Her dessert was a yummy Hummingbird Cake, a Paula Dean recipe.

Raquel, LS, Jodi, Natalie, Lynley, Bridget, Andrea
Lara and Baby Henri in front

Minus Andrea, plus Grace

 Crispy Scallion Pancakes with Asian Dipping Sauce

5 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
3 cups boiling water

Dipping Sauce
1 cup soy sauce
1 cup green onions
1 cup Chinese vinegar (purchase at Asian market, or substitute Rice Wine Vinegar but do not use seasoned Rice Vinegar)
2 Tbsp minced ginger
1 tsp minced garlic
4 tsp sugar

2 Tbsp Dark Sesame oil
Salt to taste
Ground black pepper to taste
3 cups green onions sliced

1 3/4 cups Peanut Oil (or canola)

1. Sift the flour into a mixing bowl and add enough boiling water to form a dough.  (Use a double layer of rubber gloves).  Knead for 5 minutes.  Cover the dough and set aside for 20 minutes at room temperature to rest.  (I covered with a damp towel).
2. To prepare the dipping sauce, combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and mix well.  Reserve.
3. Divide the dough into 6 parts, then roll each into a thin rectangle (or a sort-of rectangle).
4. Brush each rectangle with a small amount of sesame oil and season with salt and pepper.  Cover each rectangle with a layer of sliced green onions and roll up like a jelly roll.
5. Once rolled, take one end and roll into a spiral coil. 

6. Roll this spiral shape flat into a pancake. (This rolling technique gives the dough a design and lightness.)
7. Pan-fry in peanut oil over medium-heat until crispy. 
8. Drain well.
9. Cut each pancake into quarters and keep warm until ready to serve.

 Romaine Lettuce with Japanese Salad Dressing

2 heads Romaine lettuce

1/2 cup carrots, chopped
1/4 cup onions, chopped
1/4 cup celery, chopped
1/4 each orange, juice and pulp, peeled, and deseeded
2 tsp ginger, minced
2 tsp light soy sauce
2 tsp ketchup
1 TBS rice vinegar, unseasoned
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
salt to taste

1. Cut the lettuce into 2-inch pieces.  Rinse and dry thoroughly.  Set aside.
2. Place all ingredients for the dressing into a blender and puree until very smooth.
3. Only when ready to serve, toss the lettuce with the dressing.


2/3 cups Milk
2/3 cups Yogurt
1 Egg
2 tsp Active dry yeast (not instant)
2 tsp sugar
1 lb All-purpose flour
1 tsp Salt
2 TBS Ghee, plus extra as needed (browned and clarified butter)- Raquel made her own
1/2 cup Nigella (wild onion seed)
1/2 cup Cilantro, chopped

1. Combine the milk, yogurt, egg, yeast, and sugar in a mixing bowl and mix well to blend.
2. Add the flour, salt and ghee and mix to form a pliable dough.  If the dough is to wet, add more flour.
3. Knead the dough on a lightly floured work surface until it is smooth and elastic.
4. Return the dough to the mixing bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let it proof (raise) in a warm place until it has doubled in size.  (Put a thin layer of Ghee on bowl).
5. Preheat an oven to 400 degrees.
6. Divide the dough into 6 evenly-sized pieces and roll them out to a slipper shape.
7. Bake the naan in the preheated oven until browned and cooked through, about 8 to 10 minutes.
8. Brush with additional ghee right before serving and sprinkle with the onion seeds and cilantro.
9. Serve warm.

Shepherd's Pie 
 This was delicious!  The recipe is super long, so if you're interested, email me! 

Grilled Flank Steak with Chimichurri Sauce

2 TBS garlic, minced
2 TBS salt
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 TBS extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup shallot, finely chopped
1/4 cup green onion, finely chopped
1/2 Aji chile, seeds and veins removed, minced
1 cup oregano, chopped
1 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped

2 1/4 lb Flank steak, trimmed
2 TBS olive oil
salt as needed
ground black pepper as needed 

1. To make the chimichurri sauce, combine the garlic and salt on a cutting board and mash into a paste using the broad side of a chef knife.  Transfer the garlic paste to a non-reactive mixing bowl.
2. Add the vinegar, olive oil, shallot, green onion, chile, oregano, and parsley and stir to combine.  Allow the flavors to combine for at least 24 hours and up to 48 hours.
3. Preheat gas grill to medium-high, leaving one burner off.  If you are using a charcoal grill, build a fire and let it burn down until the coals are glowing red with a moderate coating of white ash.  Spread the coals in an even bed on one side of the grill.  Clean the cooking grate.
4. Lightly coat the flank steak with the oil and season with salt and pepper.
5. Place the steak on the grill until the meat is well marked by the grill.  Rotate the meat 90 degrees and allow to cook, undisturbed, until cross-hatch marks have been created.  Turn the meat over and finish grilling to the desired temperature.
6. Remove the steak from the grill and allow to rest, tented, for 10 minutes before slicing thinly across the grain.  (This step is VERY important).
7. Serve the sliced beef on a heated platter, topped with the Chimichurri Sauce.

Grilled Vegetables with Romesco Sauce

6 New Potatoes
1 Fennel bulb, trimmed,quartered
9 Baby carrots, peeled
1/4 cup Extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tbsp Garlic, peeled, minced
Salt to taste
Ground black pepper to taste
18 Asparagus stalks, trimmed
1 Zucchini, trimmed & halved lengthwise
Red onions, peeled, quartered
9 Mushrooms, trimmed
1 Red bell pepper, cored & quartered
1 Yellow bell pepper
1 Lemon, juiced
Romesco Sauce, as needed

1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the potatoes and blanch (par-cook) until almost cooked through.  Drain and set aside.  Once cool, cut each potato in half.
2. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Blanch the fennel and then the carrots until partially tender, 3 to 4 minutes.  Drained the cooked vegetables well and let cool slightly.
3. Combine the olive oil and garlic in a mixing bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Working in batches, add the vegetables and toss to coat.
4. Preheat a gas grill to high.  If you are using a charcoal grill, build a fire and let it burn down until the coals are glowing red with a light coating of white ash.  Spread the coals in an even bed.  Clean the cooking grate.
5. Grill the vegetables, turning as necessary, until they begin to take on color and are cooked through, about 8 to 12 minutes, depending on the vegetables.  They should all be tender when done, but not mushy.
6. Arrange the grilled vegetables on a heated platter and drizzle with lemon juice.  Serve accompanied with room temperature Romesco Sauce.
Note: Omit if out of season.

Romesco Sauce
24 Hazlenuts, toasted and skinned 
20 Almonds, toasted and skinned
2 Garlic cloves, peeled
2 Bread slices
3 Red bell peppers
2 Tomatoes
1/4 cup Extra virgin olive oil
2 Sprigs flat-leaf parsley, chopped
2 TBS Sherry vinegar
Salt to taste
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Arrange the hazelnuts, almonds, garlic, and bread in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Place into the preheated oven and roast until the items are lightly browned.  Set aside and allow the ingredients to cool.  Increase the oven temperature to 475 degrees.
3. Halve the peppers and remove the stems and seeds.  Place cut side down onto an oiled baking sheet.  Cut the tomatoes in half lengthwise and add to the baking sheet.  Roast or broil until the peppers are evenly charred and the tomatoes are browned and have a rich "roasted" aroma.  Once done, immediately wrap in plastic to create steam and help loosen the skins, then remove the skins using a paring knife.  Set aside to cool completely.
4. Transfer all cooled ingredients to a blender or food processor.  Add the oil, parsley, and vinegar and blend to form a smooth puree.  Season with salt to taste.
5. Reserve until ready to serve.  (Serve on side as a dip).

 Sticky Rice with Coconut Sauce and Fresh Mangos

Sticky Rice
3 cups sticky rice
1/2 cup coconut milk
3/4 cups sugar
2 1/4 tsp salt
3 pandanus leaves, tied in a knot (frozen section, but can be hard to find, can use kumbu leaves, which are easier to find)

Coconut Topping
1 1/2 cups coconut milk
2 1/4 tsp sugar
1/3 tsp salt
2 1/3 tsp rice flour
1 1/2 tsp mung beans, soaked in hot water for 1 hour
3 Mangos, thinly sliced, or as needed

1. For the sticky rice, drain the soaked rice and place in a steamer lined with cheesecloth.  Steam until the grains are soft, about 20 minutes.
2. When the rice is steaming, combine the coconut milk, sugar, salt and pandanus leaves in a small saucepan.  Bring to a bare simmer for 2 minutes to dissolve the salt and sugar.  Strain and reserve the mixture.
3. When the sticky rice is done, transfer to a mixing bowl.  While the rice is still hot, add the coconut milk mixture.  Using a rubber spatula, gently stir to coat the grains quickly and evenly.  Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for 15 minutes to allow the rice to absorb the sauce.
4. For the coconut topping,  combine the coconut milk, sugar, and salt in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to a simmer.
5. In a bowl, blend the rice flour with 1 tablespoon of water and mix well to dissolve the rice flour.  While the coconut sauce is simmering, slowly drizzle in the rice flour slurry, stirring constantly.  Return to a boil, immediately remove from the heat, and set aside. 
6. Drain and pat dry the mung beans.  Toast in a nonstick saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly, until they are light brown and crispy, 1 to 2 minutes.  Set aside.
7. When ready to serve, place a small amount of the sticky rice onto a plate with the mango slices arranged on the side.  Pour 3 Tbs of the coconut topping over the sticky rice and sprinkle with the toasted mung beans (or we suggest omitting them).

We had a special guest from down the street mid-meal!
(Lynley's dad Jim Rowan and his fancy dessert!)

Natalie and all of her fabulous jewelry.

Gourmet Girls San Antonio Adventure

As many of you "gourmet followers" may have heard by now, The Gourmet Girls took a little trip the last week in March! Six of us (unfortunately Lara wasn't able to join us due to the recent arrival of Baby Henri) boarded a plane and headed to San Antonio, Texas for a week of "World Cuisine Boot Camp" at The Culinary Institute of America. We had an absolutely amazing time! The cooking school far exceeded all of our expectations.  We worked hard, learned a lot, ate a ton and overall had a fantastic experience.  It was a lifetime opportunity.


Please scroll through the next five posts (six including this one) to get a play-by-play of each of our five days of school at the CIA. There are pictures and titles for every dish we made during the week. If you'd like a copy of a specific recipe, please don't hesitate to let me (Bridget) know.

Just ready to board!
We left Provo on Sunday evening, March 25, 2012
Goodbye Utah for the next six days!

The flight out

We arrived in San Antonio and checked into our hotel, Hotel Contessa. Here is a picture of the back of our hotel from the riverwalk.

Day 1 - Monday, March 26, 2012

Six o'clock am came far too early on the morning of Monday, March 26, 2012.  We had all stayed up quite late Sunday night, visiting in our hotel rooms, and now we had to be at the CIA by 6:40 am to check in!  Plus, we had to stop for breakfast on our way, since room service didn't begin until 7:00 am in our hotel.  We found our daily stop "Einsteins", loaded up, and headed for the unknown location of the Culinary Institute of America.  This was all in the wee hours of the dark morning being led by the GPS device in our rental car!  Luckily we found the campus and checked in on time.  We were so excited to be there!

We met our instructor and head chef, Michael Katz, got our cool CIA duffel bags, complete with two uniforms, and were off and running.  Each day consisted of approximately 2 hours of classroom instruction, followed by a short break and planning session with your team, then we cooked for 3-4 hours, and then we ate!  There were two other CIA students besides the six gourmet girls - Cathy and Kirk.  They were both troopers to put up with us!  The eight of us were divided in two teams of four.


Perhaps the most important principle we learned during the week was the concept of "Mise en Place" (pronounced "mis - on - plas"). This is a French term, which essentially means "everything in place". It refers to order in your preparation and cooking: thinking about your day the night before, the ingredients, marinating, reading your recipes (the entire recipe) and understanding the steps, gathering ingredients, and being mentally prepared to cook. Specifically, we learned that it meant to not only gather all of your ingredients, but to chop, mince, slice, etc and measure everything out into small "mise cups" in the order called for on the recipe. This had to be done prior to beginning the actual preparation of your dish. At first it seemed tedious, but I believe we all came to understand the importance behind this type of order in the kitchen.

This is the kitchen we cooked in each day

One of the things I appreciated most about the CIA was the high quality of their fresh ingredients. Each day all of our ingredients would be waiting for us on the "farm table". We would go here to gather and measure out everything we needed.  Look how beautiful all of this food looks!


I should also mention how fantastic Chef Katz was. He was super patient, explained things very thoroughly, gave excellent demonstrations, and was obviously highly skilled and experienced. We all loved the opportunity to learn from him throughout the week.

The menu on our first day consisted of Mediterranean food. We made dishes from Southern Italy, Spain and Greece.

Neapolitan-Style Pizza

This pizza was amazing. I think it was for two reasons: 1) Chef Katz pulled the fresh mozzarella right in front of us and 2) The pizzas were cooked in a wood-burning oven. I would like one of these in my kitchen.

 Happy to be making (and eating) pizza at the CIA!

Pizza and Pita-Making in Action!

Chef Katz showing us how it's done

A peek inside the oven

Fresh Egg Pasta with Hot Sausage Ragu

Swordfish in Savory Sauce

Sauteed Broccoli Rabe with Pancetta

Tortilla Espanola
(Basically a frittata)

Paella Valenciana

See what I mean about fantastic quality ingredients? Look at those prawns! I had fun making this dish. Here are a few "in process" shots.


Moorish-Style Kabobs

Grilled Vegetables with Romesco Sauce

Jodi had fun preparing this dish!

 Andrea hard at work!

 Lynley was excited about all of the knife use!
Note: The tray in front of Lynley is a perfect example of "Mise-en-Place". She has all of her ingredients chopped and ready to go in "mise cups".

  Our buffet table Day 1. Man this was a long day!  
We worked hard and our food was delicious!